Broken Horses full movie review - Broken Adaptation
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)
Rating: 2.8/5 stars
To the Hindi film audience in India, "Broken Horses" comes across as nothing more than a 2015 reworking of Vidhu Vinod Chopra's seminal 1989 crime saga, "Parinda". The similarities between the two films are so prevalent and irrefutable - motifs, characters, the plot, even scenes - that to a person who has watched "Parinda", "Broken Horses" feels like that film with a different cast, and therein lies the biggest glitch with the veteran filmmaker's Hollywood debut. Chopra's "Parinda" has basically returned 25 years later on-screen as Chopra's "Broken Horses", with Mexico's dust bowls replacing Mumbai's mean streets, a ranch on a lake replacing a crucial boat, two brothers joined by love and circumstances now also tied by a slight mental disability, and a lot less blood and a lot more conscious style. As for a person who hasn't watched "Parinda" - and most of Chopra's Hollywood audience would fall in that category - this film feels rocky, with certain parts of the story not quite adding up. What could have been acceptable in a 1989 Mumbai, is not quite so on the 2015 Mexico border.
So while Chopra's "Parinda" was a pathbreaker in 1989, giving the first gritty portrayal of the underworld in Bollywood, his first Hollywood venture won't make any waves on those well-trodden shores. Particularly as "Parinda" itself drew comparisons with a classic crime film that preceded it by three decades - Elia Kazan's Marlon Brando starrer, "On the Waterfront".
The ensemble cast does a commendable job, with D'Onofrio, Marquette, Yelchin, and Valverde all coming across as believable. Nana Patekar's pyrophobic Anna Seth of "Parinda" sees a parallel in D'Onofrio's Hench, who has an irrational nervous breakdown on seeing a burning candle in a church. Marquette is convincing in his role as Buddy, a man who is somewhat slow, but impeccable with the gun and his fists, and is easily brainwashed. Yelchin is passable as the violinist who needs to dirty his hands to save his brother. Valverde's Vittoria evokes copious pathos and admiration for the composure and resolve she displays under trying circumstances, regardless of the minimal screen time she gets.
On the technical front, Tom Stern's cinematography is par excellence, and is among the stronger points of the film - shots of the Mexican countryside are beautifully captured. A scene that particularly stands out is the one where the extraction of orange juice is interspersed with goons being killed. On the editing front it seems that Todd E. Miller's scissors were a bit too sharp and snappy, which could probably be the biggest reason that "Broken Horses" doesn't retain even a semblance of "Parinda's" excellence. The producers needed to understand or Chopra himself should have convinced the producers that a story of this magnitude needed the runtime of a Bollywood film, if it had any chance of creating an encore of the multi-layered depths and rich character arcs of its source material. The soundtrack does justice to the film, but doesn't stay with you once the curtains come down.
In all, "Broken Horses" is nothing but "Parinda" with western actors and without the same impact. While "Parinda" was a brilliant gangster movie and way ahead of its time, this one doesn't impress as much. That isn't saying "Broken Horses" is a bad film; it's more than a decent crime story, and can even be enjoyed to a moderate extent. But the fact that it's an adaptation of what could easily be considered among Indian cinema's 10 finest films ever, and the very same Director - an ace filmmaker no less - who helmed that film comes up short in this adaptation; stirs a level of infuriation and frustration within you, especially for those who loved "Parinda". Watch it if you're keen on seeing what the first Hollywood film written, directed, and produced by an Indian filmmaker is like. Else, just treat yourself by re- watching "Parinda" all over again.